A Week In Cleveland, OH, On A $44,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a social media marketing specialist working in building materials/construction who makes $44,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on school notebooks.
Occupation: Social Media Marketing Specialist
Industry: Building Materials/Construction
Age: 24
Location: Cleveland, OH
Salary: $44,000 (This includes an extra $1,000 I've made from freelance in the past 2.5 months.)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,252 plus about $300/month from freelance
Gender Identity: Woman/She/Her
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $390 (water included, split with my boyfriend and roommate)
Car Loan: $245
Credit Card: $200 (total CC debt is ~$1,700 from an unexpected move)
Student Loans: $310 (~$40,000 total)
Utilities/Wi-Fi: ~$67 (for my share; this is split 3 ways with BF and our roommate)
Car Insurance: $170
Washer/Dryer: $100 (0% APR, $800 total)
Gym: $23
Apple Music/iCloud: $12
Netflix: $16 (My parents pay for Hulu, and we share.)
BarkBox: $23 (I spoil my dog, yes, but this actually has saved us money because I no longer buy him a new toy every time I go to the store, and he can't shred them as quickly.)
Amazon Prime: $179 (yearly)
Microsoft Word: $99 (yearly)
401(k): I contribute 5% of my pay (taken out of my paycheck), but my company doesn't match.
Savings: Before we bought the washer/dryer, I was putting back $200/month in savings (for the past two years), but now I deposit anything I make from freelance into my savings. I have about $3,500 in savings (I would have more, but I had a $1,000 emergency vet bill and a $1,200 deposit when we moved). My plan for my MBA is to try to pay as much as I can toward school with what I make from freelance in the coming semesters.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — I wake up hungover and in a tent. We spent this past weekend at my boyfriend, O.'s, family's campground "glamping." My family got a cabin and joined. It's been a weekend full of beer, cornhole, golf-cart races, and great food. Our families get along so well, and I love it.
10 a.m. — We have breakfast with both families stuffed in his parents' camper. Pancakes and bacon, what more could a girl ask for? O. and I pack our stuff up and head back to our house with my sister M. M. moved in with us this past summer, as O. is starting law school, we rent a three-bedroom, and it saves us all on rent. Plus, it's really nice having her to hang with since O. is so busy.
12 p.m. — After we drop our stuff and shower, O. and I head to our favorite local coffee shop to do work. O. starts his 1L year (or his first year) tomorrow and already has had homework/reading/case studies for the past week. I have freelance work to do for a skin-care company I just started doing work for. I have a full-time job that I like, but don't feel pushed at and don't have a lot of freedom with. Freelance allows me to push myself, learn new skills, and also make extra money to pad my savings with. We get two coffees (cappuccinos) and a muffin to split. $11.15
3 p.m. — We finish up work and head to pick up some office/school supplies/home necessities. We get notebooks, pens, folders, binders, highlighters, Swiffer juice, sponges, and meal-prep Tupperware. I pay for my school stuff and the home supplies, and O. pays for his supplies. $36.10
4 p.m. — Next stop is groceries at Aldi (my favorite place). We get a family pack of chicken breast, Italian turkey sausage, tons of veggies, granola bars, smoked salmon, rice cakes, paper towels, and a few other odds and ends. While O. is in school, he pays for his half of his basic expenses with his savings and school loans, and I pay for my half of the basics, household items, fun stuff, and date stuff! We split groceries 50/50, which is what we do now. $45.83
7 p.m. — We get home and I meal-prep as O. does more school work on a case study. We meal-prep 90% of our lunches and one dinner a week to save money, but also just to save time as we don't have much free time during the week. After meal prep, my sister and roommate, M., go to pick up Chipotle for O. and my other (younger) sister, A. I pay for O. and me, M. pays for hers and A's. $17
9 p.m. — I wrap up some freelance stuff and take the dog for a walk. O. is finally done with school stuff when I get back, and we head up to bed. We talk for a while about this coming week, us both starting school, and some other life stuff. He's nervous for law school, but I know he's going to do great. We drift off around 11.
Daily Total: $110.08

Day Two

4:45 a.m. — Alarm goes off, and I snooze once before a wet nose wakes me up. I let the dog out, put on workout clothes, and O. and I head to the gym. We go to the gym together but don't work out together. I have unlimited guests passes, so by going together, we save money. I lift legs for an hour.
6:30 a.m. — Home and I chug a glass of water as O. makes coffee for us. We shower and I get ready for the day. I wear a thin sweater (yes, it's summer, but my office is freezing) and an A-line skirt. My skin-care routine in the morning is simple: I wash my face in the shower, and when I get out, I use toner (Pixi), a serum from the Ordinary (LOVE this brand, has saved my cystic acne self), and a moisturizer. Then I apply makeup. Pretty simple: cover-up, matte powder (I'm an oily bitch), highlighter, and mascara. I grab my meal-prepped lunch, kiss O. and the dog goodbye, and head to work by 7:20.
7:40 a.m. — At work, I scroll through social and play email catch-up from this weekend. After a couple hours, I take a break and have a yogurt and egg cup (meal-prepped and brought in).
1 p.m. — Lunch! I eat at my desk and read Money Diaries. I have a meeting with my boss after lunch, and it goes normally. We have a weekly meeting to just go over what's going on in our department that week. I'd call it a department-wide meeting (and it is), but we're a department of two, sooo...
3:30 p.m. — Snack break! I snack on watermelon, listen to the new T-Swift album, and online shop on the Ordinary. I get the same serum I have at home because I'm running low, and also a toner that's better than the Pixi one I have and has more for half the price. I'm so excited. $20.96
4:45 p.m. — I head home for the day! Once home, I say hi to O. and the dog, grab a snack (rice cake with spinach artichoke dip and smoked salmon), do some freelance work, and then start my accounting online class.
7:30 p.m. — I take a break and make dinner. Teriyaki beef stir-fry. It's so good, and since I chopped the veggies during meal prep, it's also very quick to make! After dinner, O. does some reading and I take the dog for a quick 20-minute walk. He's a very high-energy mutt (lab/collie/terrier mix — we did the DNA test on him) and requires a lot of exercise. My sister and I have a deal where she runs/walks him during the day and I make her dinner three or four nights a week. It's great for both of us, because she loves walking him and I'm making dinner for O. and me anyway.
10 p.m. — I do some more accounting, and O. brings me a fudge pop from the freezer because he supports my chocolate addiction like the amazing boyfriend he is. After, we head to bed around 11. Then we sleep ;).
Daily Total: $20.96

Day Three

4:45 a.m. — Up for the gym and same routine as yesterday. I do cardio. O. is really tired, so he stays home and says he's going to go for a run with the dog later today.
7 a.m. — I get ready, same as yesterday, but today I wear black jeans with a burnt orange flowy shirt and tan thick, strappy mini heels. I pack my lunch, coffee, and a bunch of snacks for the day, plus all my books for class later. Kiss to O. and the dog, and I head to work.
11 a.m. — It's been a busy morning, and I finally go grab a Greek yogurt for breakfast. I read a Money Diary to decompress from my busy morning. Around 1, I break again for lunch.
4:45 p.m. — I leave work, rice cake with guac in hand. I drive into Cleveland for my class, park in the far parking lot ($4 — parking-pass drama, meaning the school lost mine and I have to pay to park right now), and walk to a nearby coffee shop. I grab a cold brew with a shot of mocha. The customer before me is super rude, so I tip my barista nicely. $9.25
9 p.m. — Class is finally over, and I walk back to my parking garage with two other students. We chat about class and where we live, and they're both quite nice. I'm glad they're with me, as being in a parking garage late at night in downtown makes me extremely nervous.
9:20 p.m. — Finally home for the night. O. waited for me to eat dinner, so we heat up our meal-prepped burrito bowls. We watch New Girl and chat about our days as we eat. I missed him a lot. After dinner I wash my face and do my skin-care routine (face wash, toner, Differin, anti-aging moisturizer), then we head up to bed. I practically fall into bed and am out like a light by 11.
Daily Total: $9.25

Day Four

4:45 a.m. — Alarm goes off, and it's a big NOPE from me. I snooze but am up by 6 thanks to a wet nose. I skip the gym this morning but most likely will go later. I let the dog out and go about my normal routine. Today I'm feeling really tired and lazy, so I throw on a black shift dress with long bell sleeves and black pointed flats. Kisses to O. and the dog, and I'm off.
1:00 p.m. — After a super busy morning, I break for lunch and have General Tso's chicken breast with mixed veggies and watermelon. I try to do some of my accounting PowerPoint at lunch, but have zero motivation and watch some fitness YouTubers instead.
4:45 p.m. — I head home for the day, and once there O. and I head to the gym. We're there for about an hour. I do a full-body circuit workout followed by a HIIT workout. We then go to pick up sushi — the grocery store near us does $5 sushi on Wednesdays, and we love it. O. and I get a roll each, one to split, and some wontons. I pick some sushi up for my sisters, too, and they Venmo me immediately. $21
8:30 p.m. — I crank out three freelance articles in about an hour and a half and am feeling pretty good. I take the dog for a quick 20-minute walk, and O. does reading most of the night. I do my nighttime routine when I get back from the walk and head up to bed around 11. O. follows about a half hour later.
Daily Total: $21

Day Five

4:45 a.m. — Wake up, let dog out, gym. O. comes with. I do cardio, he lifts.
6:30 a.m. — Home from the gym, I get ready and pack my lunch for the day. O. makes coffee. To celebrate the coming Labor Day, it's a jeans day on a Thursday at work. Absolutely wild. I throw on my comfiest jeans, a company long-sleeve tee, and my knock-off Birkenstocks. I then kiss O. and the dog goodbye and head to work.
11 a.m. — Glad it's a jeans day, because today has been a pain in my ass. My boss and I spent the whole morning dealing with a difficult vendor. I finally get to have some breakfast and quickly eat two egg cups I brought in.
12:30 p.m. — Lunchtime! I have a meal-prepped burrito bowl with some watermelon on the side. I then work on a storyboard for an upcoming digital video for the rest of the day (this is my favorite part of my job — I love the creative/strategy side, but am less of a fan of the technical/budgeting side. I think eventually I'd like to be a creative director).
5:30 p.m. — I get home and snack on some cucumber slices and spinach dip. O. is at class late today, so I take the dog out and throw the ball around for half an hour with him. The neighbor dogs come out (behind the fence) and start barking their heads off at him. It gives him anxiety. He hasn't been the best around other dogs lately. About four months ago, we were on a walk and a dog charged at him out of nowhere from a backyard and attacked him. Ever since, anytime we take him to the dog park, he has issues with other dogs. O. and I aren't really sure what to do about this recent development, but have been keeping him away from other dogs for now until we can figure out what to do next (classes maybe?).
7 p.m. — I have a glass of wine and do some accounting until O. gets home. He joins me with the wine after a long day. O. and I make dinner together (this is what we usually do when we're not so dang busy). Chicken drumsticks, quinoa salad, and corn on the cob. We watch New Girl as we eat. After, we debate studying more, but have zero motivation so we stay on the couch the rest of the night, other than briefly getting up to get ice cream. We head to bed around 10:30 and actually fall asleep around 11... ;)
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

4:45 a.m. — It' Friday — I can do this! I take the dog out, put on gym clothes, and head to the gym. O. joins.
6:30 a.m. — I hop in the shower, and O. (who has no class on Fridays) goes to Starbucks to grab us coffee. I have a gift card from my birthday, so we use that. I get ready and throw on dark jeans with a striped casual button-down and my knock-off Birks. Usual skin-care and makeup routine. O. is back with coffee, and I kiss him and the dog goodbye and head to work.
12 p.m. — Friday mornings for me are just pulling and updating reports, so that's what I do. Someone brought in doughnuts, so I have one. Around noon, two of my coworkers stop by to see if I want to go out to lunch (all the bosses are out today, and it's super quiet around the office). I say yes excitedly, as I rarely go out for lunch with anyone and don't have a ton of work friends other than these two, because my office skews a bit on the experienced side (the average age here is 56). We go to this nicer lunch place about ten minutes away. I have two ciders and a turkey and spinach wrap with a side salad ($30.72 with tip). After lunch, my coworker loses a bet to my other coworker and has to buy us all ice cream from this handmade shop down the street. I get cookie-dough ice cream. It's amazing. $30.72
4:15 p.m. — The rest of the day is super slow (thanks to the cider and ice cream), and I head home early. O. is finishing up his reading for the day, and I load the dishwasher and then get ready for date night!
7 p.m. — O. and I head out to this new local beer place. We split a flight and each have a beer as well. We also get an app (tater tot nachos). I get a spicy BLT that sets my mouth on fire, and O. gets a buffalo wrap. We catch up on our weeks and get tipsy. He's liking law school so far, but it's a lot of work. I feel the same and think I might have to slow down on my freelance work a bit to make things work. $76.13
9 p.m. — We stop by a drugstore to pick up a six-pack and cookies for dessert. O. pays. We snack on cookies and beer and cuddle on the couch watching New Girl until we "go to bed" around 11. It may be Friday night, but we're exhausted and both very introverted, so this is how we both prefer to spend our Friday nights.
Daily Total: $106.85

Day Seven

6 a.m. — Dog out. Back to bed. We actually wake up around 7:30. We make coffee, watch Netflix, and sip coffee in bed until about 10, then we make eggs and toast.
11 a.m. — After we shower, we head to the coffee shop for the day. I get a vanilla cap, and O. gets a red-eye. O. does some case studies, and I do some accounting and economics work. Around 2, O. buys a muffin for us to split (they're huge). $6.24
5 p.m. — We stop by the store on our way home and pick up a 12-pack of summer shandy. We're making turkey burgers for my sisters and ourselves tonight. Once we get home, O. grills the burgers and I hang with my sisters for a bit. We polish off 11 of the shandies. $15.79
9 p.m. — We take the dog for a walk and grab some ice cream on our way home. The rest of the night we binge-watch Netflix with my sisters and just hang out. Such a wild Saturday night, we know. We head to bed around 11:30. $4.25
Daily Total: $26.28
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